It ties in with my background in the hospitality industry. I worked with lots of young people from a huge variety of backgrounds who came into the industry with varying skills levels. If you want a career in hospitality you have to get the basic skills in the first place, so for me it was about wanting to develop people’s potential. I’ve worked with some fantastic people who had loads of potential but didn’t know where to go with it.
After university I got a job as barman at my local pub and within three years worked my way up to pub restaurant Manager. I then joined Pizza Hut as Deputy Manager and later restaurant General Manager. It was there that I developed an area training role responsible for inducting new staff and training in-store teams, and decided that training was what I really wanted to do.
I found the most structured training career in hospitality outside the industry seemed to be a further education (FE) work-based training assessor, dealing with NVQs in the workplace and so on. I’d also grown tired of the unsociable working hours in the hospitality industry. I joined a private training provider in hospitality as a trainee Training Officer (Assessor) and left six years later as Area Manager for the North-West region. It enabled me to get the qualifications to enter FE.
Not many training providers offer the trainee role so it was an opportunity to gain the skills and qualifications needed to pursue a training career (A1 assessor, V1 verifier and a teaching qualification, I have the PTLLS – Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector).
I became a Work-Based Learning Manager/Assessor at Chesterfield College in October 2012 covering hospitality, hairdressing, childcare, health and social care, and supervising a team of seven work-based Tutors (Assessors).
My team has varied from seven to 11 Work-Based Tutors (Assessors). They do assessments and reviews in the workplace with their apprentices and take them through the various qualifications. I helped develop new qualifications, spent quality time with students and did some internal verifying. I then moved across to pharmacy and this year am focusing on advanced technology (mechanical and electrical engineering).
I am unusual in having moved around so much but we have expanded our provision over the last two years, enforcing management changes. I am jointly responsible with four other managers for the overall development of around 3000 apprentices across 800 companies (both local and national). The college has changed how we deliver our courses for apprentices. It’s not just about focusing on practical aspects… but now also about tutorials, teaching and learning, looking at the overall development of the students. It’s more of a holistic approach to young people’s development.
I manage apprenticeship provision, of which the NVQs (levels 2 and 3 mainly) are one part.
The apprenticeship ‘framework’ usually involves an NVQ (competence component), knowledge component, functional skills in English, maths and on some frameworks ICT, employment rights and responsibilities, and personal learning and thinking skills. From the college and employer’s point of view I also need to ensure the students themselves are not just picking up practical skills in the workplace but are also on target in building up knowledge for working in that sector. Or I could have a team meeting or training day, or a management day where we review performance and look at developing new areas of provision.
It’s a very fast-paced environment with a lot of changes coming from the college, Government and awarding bodies. On a daily basis, you sometimes need to have difficult conversations with students when things are not going so well in someone’s programme – whether it’s not producing work and you have to get a bit tough to motivate them, or an employer is not satisfied with an apprentice.
It’s seeing someone develop from their first job out of school. They are maybe not sure what they want to do so we help guide them into a career where they can develop skills. The students are ultimately why we are in the job. It’s very satisfying when it works out. Perhaps someone a bit older than usual gains the first certificate they’ve ever had – that’s quite an emotional thing. I remember one student apprenticed in a kitchen who had no self-confidence; he’d had a really tough time at school. He needed lots of support and confidence boosting but when you help somebody like that get a certification and a permanent job role at the end of it, that’s a big deal.
It’s the constant challenges of the job role and knowing that no two days are the same. I also enjoy working with my fellow managers; they can all help you on the job and develop a real team dynamic.
I first check overnight emails from tutors or employers and usually come in with a ‘to do’ list, although priorities change through the day. I might have to see a client who could be a one-man-band or a large national employer anywhere in the country. We’d discuss apprentices’ progress on their learning programmes.
From the college and employer’s point of view I also need to ensure the students themselves are not just picking up practice skills in the workplace but are also on target in building up knowledge for working in that sector. Or I could have a team meeting or training day, or look at new apprenticeship frameworks or quality processes.
I could have a very positive meeting with an employer. It’s great when they are happy with our service, looking at more apprenticeships in their business, or the learners are all on target. Or maybe an external audit body is coming in, you think it will be a tough day but it goes well. When we had an Ofsted inspection we were working 12-13 hours a day but we got a great sense of achievement when the college gained a ‘Good’ grade 2 – it was fantastic!
Yes, there are lots of changes. The fast pace keeps it interesting. There’s more awareness of apprenticeships - we had 50 people expressing interest at our last open day. For a good few years they have been growing with Government backing. And that is a key thing – people realise that apprenticeships are here to stay and that they are viable alternatives to university as a career route. If you are a large employer and engaged in the apprenticeship scheme, the future’s looking good.